DIY

Do you know what you’re getting into?

101: Regret the Puppy

“Here we are,” Chandra said as the two women spilled out of the pickup truck that had given them a lift from Mutanda junction.  Their bags tumbled out on top of them.  When the truck door was shut the drive gave a slight nod of his head and pulled away.

“Where are we going?” Chelsi asked filling her arms with reusable grocery bags while trying to balance a box of strawberry plants on her head.

“The path way there by the red sign,” Chandra gestured to pathway on the other side of the tarmac road. The two women waddled across the road under their burdens, towards a neatly swept compound of houses.  About half way up the path a yellow puppy with an excited tail came bounding up to them.  “Oh, Regret, hi how are you?  This is my host brother’s puppy Regret.”

“Oh he’s so cute, he reminds me of Daisy when she was this size.  Just so excited about everything! Aren’t you so excited!” Chelsi cooed to the puppy. “Alright, which house is yours?” she asked starting to feel the weight of the bags in her arms.

“There, that one,” Chandra nodded to a tall house with a thick thatch roof that swooped down over the door, nestled between a standalone storage room and a long laundry line.  They closed the last few meters and Chandra balanced the box she was carrying as she fumbled for her keys.  She slipped the key into the lock, twisted it open and pulled back the bolt.  The door swung open, they stumbled in, opening their arms onto the floor. “Welcome to my home,” Chandra smiled. “Everything is kind of anywhere because I haven’t had the time to make any furniture yet.”  A rainbow of plastic basins was stacked in the far corner.  A myriad of kitchen utensils, pots, pans and mixing bowls were piled around a couple of large black food bins.  Prominently placed in the moderately sized sitting room was a familiar looking futon.

“Where the hell did you get a futon?” Chelsi asked, bewildered, trying to take in her surroundings.

“No, Regret, you stay outside,” she scolded the little puppy, who connected his backend with her door mat. “What do you mean? It’s the futon from the Prov house. We got that new couch from Molly, so Laura said I can have this one.  Haven’t you noticed it’s been missing from the house for like, eight months?” Chandra laughed.

Chelsi and Chandra went about unpacking and organizing their things.  Chelsi only had with her a day pack, the pack she a taken with her when she left Jeremy alone in her house for site visit.  This was the last day of site visit, and Chelsi could have gone home that afternoon.  But I have what? 10 days left in the Kamijiji house?  What difference is a couple of days going to make?  So she decided to go home with her friend Chandra, a health volunteer whose house was another 50 km down the turn off to Chelsi’s house

The rest of the evening passed relatively uneventfully.  When they finished unpacking Chandra introduced Chelsi to her host family.  Her sisters welcomed Chelsi warmly, with hugs and smiles. All the while Regret the puppy was tow, wiggling his body and lapping excitedly at his nose.  Chandra’s host family scolded him when he got too close to the cooking pots, but otherwise treated him gently.

After a dinner of rice and vegetable the two women tucked themselves into bed.

The next morning Chandra started the brazier and Chelsi cooked the eggs.  When their plates were clean Chandra went off to greet her family for the day, let them know about the programs she had going on for the day.  Chelsi hung back to finish washing the dishes from the night before.  When Chandra returned her face was painted with distress. “My host parents said that Regret got hit by a car this morning over by the borehole.  He went with my host sisters to fetch water this morning, and a car that had pulled of the tarmac clipped his back end.”

“Is he okay? Well I mean, obviously not,” Chelsi started to stand up.

“He’s over there, curled up in the bush with my host brother.  They asked if we had any medicine for him.” She hesitated, “I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, let’s go have a look,” Chelsi was nervous that the injury would be gruesome, but walked over to the bushes where the boys were standing around.  They watched as she approached.  One of the smaller boys was making an attempt to catch the puppy, who Chelsi faintly see between the brush was limping about. Well he’s walking for now, so that’s good. 

By the time Chelsi and Chandra closed the space between the house and the bushes the boy had chased the puppy up against a wall of brush.  He was curled up tightly in a ball.  The rear foot on top was starting to swell rapidly.  “Oh baby boy, who’s such a brave puppy,” Chelsi used the voice she used to calm Daisy whenever she needed a shot.  “Are you being such a good a boy,” she continued crouching down. The boys both backed away and leaned closer.  “I know it hurts, but you’re being so brave,” She lifted the top leg gently see the other one.

Where skin had been torn away, dirt, sticks and leave were stuck to exposed muscle. There was a limited about a bleeding around the ends of the torn skin, and this paw wasn’t swelling as fast.  It could have been a lot worse.  “Alright baby boy, let’s get you cleaned up.” Chelsi scooped Regret up gently, cradling him against her chest.

“How is he?” Chandra, who was still standing closer to the house, asked.

“It not as bad as it could have been.  He really needs some stitches and a split, but do you have some gauze, ace bandages, antibiotic cream, some alcohol pads.” Chelsi adjusted her arms around Regret and kneeled to pick up Chandra’s welcome mat.  She crossed the few meters between Chandra’s front door and her chinzanza, shook out the mat and laid the puppy down on top of it. “There you go baby boy,”  He made a lame attempt to stand up and move away but kept him down by scratching behind his ears and placing a kiss on the end of his nose.

Chandra came out of her house with the supplies Chelsi asked for.  She placed them down beside the puppy in the chinzanza. “Iiii, that doesn’t look good.  That kind of stuff really grosses me out.”

Chelsi start picking the large debris out of Regret’s wounds.  She talked to him gently all the while and he eventually let his head rest on the mat, resigned to his fate of being helped.  As she worked, the pile of debris, alcohol pads and gauze wrappers grew high before Chelsi was satisfied with her work.  She finished by securing the gauze with the ace bandage and stroked Regret’s neck.  She would have liked to wrap the other paw to help control the swelling, but there was only one bandage and keeping the open wounds clean was more important she decided.   “Alright baby boy, you’re all set. Tomorrow I’ll change your bandages again.  Now don’t play to rough on it.” She smiled and the puppy looked up as she backed away.  “I’ll ask Chandra for some water for you.”

“How is he?” Chandra asked hearing her name.

“Time will tell.”

Categories: Action, DIY, Drama, Health & Fitness, Horror | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

100: Site Visit

Chelsi watched the time on her watch roll by from 14:00 to 14:01. “Alright, well I guess I’m not too surprised no one’s here.”

“Is this normal?” Zach, a new RAP trainee asked. “That just no one shows up to your programs?”

“In my area, yeah, it’s pretty par for the course.” Chelsi responded with a voice free from bitterness.  With only three weeks remaining in her village, she found herself freed of the feelings of anger and frustration she had felt.  Mostly because those feelings were being overcome with anxiety and uncertainty of what was to happen once she left her house for the last time.

She had the plan laid out the best she could; pull from site, spend a few days in Solwezi, start hitching Tuesday morning, arrive no later than Wednesday to Lusaka. Arrangements for Daisy’s extended stay at the kennel in Lusaka had already been made.  Then there will be ring out, I’ll spend a few days in Lusaka, figure out how to get to Siavonga, set up the house there, go back to Lusaka, then leave for home leave.  In her mind is all worked out more fluid that water; but she knew better than to trust the best laid plans…

“So then? What do we do?” This was Zach’s first time in the village, having arrived in Zambia about two months prior. Up until his arrival at Chelsi’s house earlier that week, Peace Corps had kept him, like all volunteers in training, in a tightly controlled environment, where the realities of everyday living as a volunteer were rarely discussed.

“Well, I’m going to go out and find the people who said they would be here for the program and make them come.” All around it was far from an ideal situation but it was her responsibility to make sure that the new trainees got full exposure to life as volunteer. In three days they would be on their own in the village for the weekend and after returning to Lusaka for two week they would be posted to their villages and on their own. “Just wait here with Adam and Amanda, and Jeremy and I’ll be back in a bit.”

Chelsi walked off her porch all bent over and towards the road.  Daisy came bounding out of the bushes after her.  She was baffled that the girls hadn’t come.  For two weeks the girls from GLOW, Peace Corps girls’ empowerment camp, had been excited about teaching some of the things that they had learned at camp. But now that the time came there was no one to be seen.

Chelsi and Daisy walked up the dust road collecting girls, and some boys, along the way. ‘Didn’t you remember? We were supposed to be making copper rings today,’ she asked them as they followed her back to the house.  They nodded along, smiling happily. Chelsi’s departure still felt like a lifetime away to them.  ‘But if we can’t make copper rings today, then we will tomorrow,’ they responded.

There’s always tomorrow here, Chelsi thought to herself.  And it’ll be the same as today, the same as yesterday. Two years of worth of yesterdays, and today, and it’s still all about tomorrow.

Categories: DIY, Drama | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

094: Community House

Chelsi sighed and rubbed her temples.  She had volunteered to take on the responsibility of hosting site visit in April on a whim.  She was in Lusaka, hanging around the office, riding a really good mood having just returned from her whirlwind Zambia tour, when one of her program managers mentioned that no Kaonde speaking aquaculture volunteers had applied to host site visit for the 2017 intake; she had shrugged her shoulders, unsurprised, and causally offered her site.

Regret was too strong a word to describe what she was feeling now, but the responsibility turned out to be more work than she anticipated.  Her memory of site visit from two years ago was mostly just hanging out, shooting the shit, eating really amazing food she would never eat again in the village.  She remembered doing a few language lessons, but it hadn’t occurred to her that she would be responsible for finding a place for the language and technical trainers to stay.

She stared out across the common room of her house. Daisy was stretched out on the couch taking a midmorning nap.  Tulip was curled up on the end of her table.  One things for sure though, I’m not going to find a homestay sitting in my house. She stood up to fetch her socks and shoes.  Not ideal rainy season footwear, but after two years she had worn through all her other options.

“Come on, let’s go Daisy.” The dog casually opened her eyes and twitched the end of her tail.  Chelsi moved to stand in the doorway. “Come on, let’s go,” she urged her.  Daisy yawned, stretched her legs, rolled over to stand up, shook herself out and hopped off the couch.  Chelsi closed the door behind them and fastened it shut with her padlock.

It was a rare warm sunny day. Most days of rainy season are cold, damp and cloudy.  Out on the dirt road they started walking towards the school.  The informational email suggested local teachers for homestay, Chelsi remembered.  Maybe there’s an extra room in Mr. Musheka’s house. They walked on towards the community school.

Crossing the grassy field towards the school block, it seemed awfully quiet.  Approaching the building Chelsi could see the classrooms were empty.  She looked at her watch; 11:30.  He should be letting them out in 30 minutes or so, but where is everybody now?  The two circled round to the back of the building.  The grass stood four feet high in the field behind the school block.  Daisy raced off into it.  Chelsi followed her pondering where all the students might have gone.  Perhaps they just went out to do some work. It wasn’t unheard of for teachers to ‘rent out’ the labor of their students to do things like pull weeds in fields or slash yards. I’m sure they’ll be back soon. 

Chelsi and Daisy looked for little critters and flowers in the grass.  5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, went by and still no students, no teacher.  But Chelsi continued to wait, 5 more minutes, 10 more minutes, 20 more minutes, the sky started to look cloudy. She called Daisy back out of the bush. “I don’t think anyone’s coming today,” she said to Daisy.

They started to make their way back through the grass, and across the school yard.  Chelsi diverted down a short cut close to the church.  A couple of men stood in the church yard bagging charcoal.

“Mwabuuka,” Chelsi greeted them. They turned around to reply and Chelsi recognized one as the brother of a friend of hers. “How are you?” she asked, walking up to him directly.

“Us, we are fine.” He was an older man, who lived mostly in town. When they did see each other he was always polite and kind. Chelsi wished she could remember his name.

“Do you know where all the students have gone?” she figured she might as well see if there’s an explanation.

“You mean they are not there by the school?”

“No, we came to talk to Ba Musheka, and we’ve been waiting for an hour now, and nobody’s come.”

They looked at the few other men who were standing around.  But they all shrugged and shook their heads.

“You see,” Chelsi started, “I have some teachers coming from Lusaka the first week of April. They can bring bedding and food, they just need somewhere to stay. Since they’re teachers, I thought maybe Mr. Musheka, but he doesn’t seem to be around.”

“Oh, well,” he paused, “I wish it was in town. But, there is an extra house, just that side.” He pointed in the general direction of his family’s compound. “It’s not all finished, but the iron sheets are there.”

Chelsi’s heart lightened, this was even better. “That’s okay, we still have some time to get it together. Can we go and see?”

“Yes, if you come by in the afternoon, you will find me there. I just need to finish here.”

Chelsi smiled and nodded, “tusakumonaangana. We will see each other.” With that they departed.

Categories: Adventure, DIY | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

090: Every Morning

Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep, you hear the 6:45 alarm go off. You stretch a little, roll over in bed.  Daisy in the next room on the couch; you know she mirroring your actions.  Her nails click against the cement floor as she jumps off the couch and walks over to the side of the bed.  She lets out a little sigh as she stretches and paws at the mosquito net. ‘It’s cuddle time,’ she’s saying, ‘Let me up on the bed.’

You reach your arm around and pull some of the net out of the bed frame; just enough so that Daisy has room to jump up.  She steps over you, curling up so her back it up against your belly.  You both drift back to sleep.

Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep, the 7:30 alarm, now it’s time to get up.  Daisy stretch out first, scooching herself up so her head is resting on the pillow beside yours.  She rolls and sighs.  Morning dog breath is your limit.  “I’m getting up,” you tell her, pushing off the blanket and swinging your legs over the side of the bed.  You’re startled when your toes touch something furry.

“Meow, meo.” The fog clears from in front of your eyes and you see Tulip, sitting, looking up at you.

“If you’re not careful I’m going to step on you one of these days,” you warn, grabbing the empty mug wedged between the mattress and the wall in one hand and your phone in the other.  You walk out of the small bedroom, through the narrow doorway into the common room.  You empty your hands onto the table and make your way to the back room, pulling aside the curtains on the windows as you go.  The back room is still dark, but you know where everything is.

You open the nozzle on the water bag hanging from the ceiling poles and let fresh water run in to a small black basin.  Using your hands, you splash the cool water on your face, then apply some face wash, and rinse in the same manner.  A towel hangs on the curtain rod and you use it to dry your hands and face.  You grab your tooth brush from as cup sitting on a chest high shelf, used to hold your toiletries and tools.  While you brush, you fill a cup with clean water from the filter in the common room.  After rinsing you slip in to the cloths you left hanging on the curtain rod the day before.

You make your way back into the common room.  Tulip is sitting on his food bin grooming his paws.  He’s hungry, but he can wait till Daisy gets up too, you think to yourself.  At the kitchen bench you start the process of making coffee.  The coffee is in the green plastic basket, on the shelf below the countertop of the kitchen bench.  You grab it, unscrew the top of the espresso maker, fill the lower chamber with water from the filter, pour grounds into the grate and screw the top back on.  You pump air into a bright red fuel container and attach it to your MSR Dragonfly backpack stove.  Carefully you open the fuel line valve, and the faint smell of gasoline wafts up.  When the smell seem strong enough, you close the fuel line, light a match and move it ever closer to the stove until the gas catches with a POP.

While the stove heats up, you take a green plastic bowl from off the shelf over the bedroom doorway.  To it you add oatmeal, raisins, cinnamon, peanut butter and water, kept hot in your thermos brand thermos from the night before.  Quickly you stir it up and set it to the side, refocusing your attention on the stove.  Reopening the fuel line allows the gas to catch, burning with an even blue flame.  Atop the burner you set an old lid to a giant can of dog food, then balance the espresso maker atop it.

Daisy rustles the blankets in the bedroom. Is she going to get up? You ask yourself.

When it’s not followed by the click of her nails hitting the cement floor you think, not yet.

Over at the table you touch the screen of your phone, bringing it back to life.  You re-enable the network and leave it to sit and catch up with morning.  Meanwhile, you bring your stainless steel mug back to the kitchen bench.  To it you add some powdered milk and hot water. You turn the flame up on the stove.

A plastic bag is heard crackling behind you.  When you turn, you see Tulip pouncing on the bag you keep all your extra bags in.  The sound is enough to make Daisy think you are reaching into her food bag.  She Click Clicks on to the floor, stretches and comes in the common room, her tail wagging, ready to greet you for the day.

Now that Daisy’s risen, Tulip gets extra excite, bouncing between the bloated bag of bags, Daisy and his food bin.

“Alright, alright,” you tell them, as Daisy paws at your legs.  “I’m coming, hold on.”

You fill Daisy’s stainless steel dog bowl with heart shape, chicken flavored kibbles from a giant, red plastic bin.  When you replace the bowl on the floor, Tulip attempts to get to it first, but is distracted by the sound of the doves flying on to the roof, cooing to one another.  Your take his little blue plastic food bowl off the cat shelf and fill it with star shaped, liver flavored kibbles from a clear plastic bin.  Tulip climbs the branch to his cat shelf, antsy with anticipation.  As the animals eat you prop open the front door, allowing in more light.

The house fills with the scent of coffee.  Returning to the kitchen bench you turn up the flame on the stove then shut the fuel valve.  The flame sputters out.  Carefully you pour the coffee into the milk.  When it’s finished you take up the black handle of the coffee mug in one hand, and your green plastic bowl filled with tender oats in the other.  At the table you set them down near a dinning chair, covered with a red cushion. You take your seat and look out the window, to see the sun coming up over the tree tops.

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087: A New Year

​Chelsi sunk back onto the dingy green media room couch next to her friend Tyler.  He was leaned forward though, fidgeting with something on the brown wicker coffee table.  

“So how’d it go? How was Zanzibar?” Tyler asked. 

“You mean, beside perfect in every way?” Chelsi voice was long and tired, but Tyler laughed.

“That good, huh? I mean, I heard about the train ride.”

“Oh, yeah, that god damn train! It nearly killed me, like seriously, we almost died.” Chelsi was sincere in the fieriness of her tone.  “Jason came the closest though.  The train car that derailed was the dining car.  Which was also of course the car smack dab in the middle of the train. Then after 18 hours of playing ‘how are you going to fix the train’ they ultimately decided that the dining car had to be left behind. So the only things we had to eat, was whatever we could buy through the window at short station stops… And, and there was no drinking water.”

“Yeah, it was not like that when Jason and I took it last time.”

“That’s what he kept saying. But you know what? I think it worked out for the better.  Because if the train hadn’t been delayed we would have gotten in to town yesterday, instead of today and because I only had one house day left this month, I wouldn’t have been able to stay for New Year’s. I would have been sitting alone in my house like last year.” She paused for a moment, remembering sitting in her now broken easy chair, staring at the clock on her phone; watching the minutes tick by – 23:50, 23:51, 23:52, 23:53, 23:54, 23:55, 23:56, 23:57, 23:58, 23:59, 00:00, 00:01, 00:02, 00:03, 00:04, 00:05, 00:06, 00:07, 00:08, 00:09, 00:10. Then she went to bed.  She couldn’t even recall if she had open a fancy bottle of wine.  “It’s much better this way.”

“Speaking of,” Tyler straightened himself and stood up. “It’s nearly midnight, and we’ve got fireworks to shoot off!” He looked down at her with a smile and started towards the door.  “Are you coming?” he pulled open the door and music filled the room.

“I’m right behind you,” She called after him looking at her watch; 23:56.  2017 huh? Chelsi thought to herself. 2007 feels like just the other week… But at 16 could I have really imagined myself here? She looked around the dimly lit room. The walls were concealed by floor to ceiling shelves of DVDs, VHSs, books and an assortment of other media materials.  Chelsi wasn’t even sure what color the walls actually were.  Nnn…, mmm well maybe…
She pulled herself up off the couch and walked into the common room. The house speakers, one stacked on top of the other, were bumpin’ the hottest beats from the club.  DJ Neal was squatting at the computer just beside them, finishing up the que for the next 30 songs.  Ireri and Sid, two volunteers from the newest intake were getting down on the dance floor together. Jason on the other hand was up on the dining table, twerking it with everything he had: “Neal! Neal!” he cried, “We need the Thong Song! Play the Thong Song!”

“No! Jtrain! We’re not playing the Thong Song.” Neal looked over his shoulder at him, “and you’re going to break the table if you keep doing that.”

“Alright everyone, if you want to see fireworks, come outside now!” Tyler screamed through doorway to the back porch. And with that, the music was tamed and the whole party filed outside.   

They stood on the steps of the porch watching intently the little cardboard boxes lined up in front of them in the grass.  “I know that one,” Sami whispered to Chelsi. “It’s the most dangerous one, because if they don’t fire at the same time then the whole thing will come shooting sideways across the ground and explode.” She voice crescendo-ed into glee, “and you don’t know where it’s going to go!”

“Please be careful Tyler!” Ireri called from the porch.

“Its fine,” and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, little boxes filled with colorful explosives were lit, and Tyler took a few steps back.  

 With a loud bang, the first rocket shot off and a white flash filled the air.  Another bang, and green and red stars were propelled through the night sky.  And, “Bump, bump, bump,”

“Jtrain!” Neal shouted, “No one wants to hear the Thong Song!”

Categories: Current Events, DIY, Science & Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

083: the Pastel Palace

​”Come on baby girl,” Chelsi called to her dog. “It’s alright you can do it, come on.”  Daisy hesitated at the foot and a half drop out the minivans door.  “Come on,” Chelsi clapped her hands in encouragement. 

With an unsteady hop, Daisy stretched out her front legs and touched down on the gravel. “Good girl, see it wasn’t that bad.  Thanks again,” Chelsi said waving to the minivan driver and hooking up Daisy’s leash to her harness.  The minivan pulled away and Chelsi surveyed her surroundings.

She could believe it had been more than a year and half since she had been to Mshinda, as medium size village just north of the town Manyama on the tarmac of the road to Mwinilunga.  It had been her introduction to Northwest Provence.  Leading Daisy away from the tarmac, across the school yard, she tried to recall what that visit had been like; excited, scared, tired. At the time she was still a trainee, with just two months in country, it was days before she would be introduced to her permanent site and only three more weeks before she would be on her own in the village.  

A few children gathered along the path to stare as she led her dog on to the volunteer’s house.  Previously it had been the home of woman named Dick, but a new volunteer had taken over the house, Chelsi’s friend Amanda. As the house came into view it began to stir up memories from her last visit; bottles of Desert Island and London Dry, solo language lessons, grilled cheese and sauce packets, meeting her darling Daisy for the first time.  

The house stood tall and strong.  Well laid bricks were painted with Lunda greetings, the roof thatch was thick and the window covered with screens and glass.  A few steps to the south sat the chinzanza, square with a waist high wall. Inside sat a few chairs, a table and a bag of charcoal.  After setting her backpack down on one of the chairs, Chelsi walked past the chinzanza towards a woven bamboo enclosure, elevated off the ground on what looked like a dish rack.  There were two chicken wire covered opening on either side.  She peeked into the window.  A fat white rabbit sat contently chewing on a cabbage leaf at the center of the enclosure.  Chelsi smiled, when she felt Daisy tugging at her leash she turned around.  

Her two friend, Amanda and Adam were walking up the path towards the house carrying a shopping bag.  “Hey friends!” she said, alerting them to her presence. 

“Hey Chelsi, glad to see you made it okay.” Adam walked up closer to greet her and gave Daisy a strong rub of her side.  “Hi Daisy, how are you?”

Daisy, looked up at Adam and licked her nose. 

“Hiii,” Amanda replied with a big smile. 

“Hii eee,” Chelsi laughed.  The three friends chattered briefly about their transport as they walked towards the front door of the house.  The key clicked in the lock and the bolt slid back.  

It had been a very nice house under ownership of Dick, but Chelsi was unprepared for the beauty that its new owner added. 

Tidy shelves of teas and spices lined the walls of the front room.  A table and chair Chelsi recognized were pushed up next to the window, but now a decorated in cute tea cups and glasses.  When Chelsi noticed that her two friends had removed their shoes she followed suit and stepped further into the house.  Daisy wiped her paws on the mat and followed, closely behind and into the house.  Through the doorway into the main room Chelsi saw Amanda’s cat, Kitty, nursing her three tiny kittens on a cat bed tucked in to the corner of the wrap around couch.  Soft colored fabrics covered the walls and a spread to match was laid over the bed.  Above the bed was a colored glass window made of the bottoms of wine bottles and neatly organizing pens, pencils and other stationary supplies.  Across from the foot of the bed sat a book shelf covered in colored candles.  As Chelsi ventured further into the room she noticed the soft rugs beneath her feet.  She fell back onto the couch.  “This is amazing,” the words spilled out of Chelsi’s mouth as think and silky as cream.  

Amanda’s face pulled back into a smile, “I know.”

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081: Albert the Turkey

​“Just let me do it this year,” Chelsi had responded to Hannah and Sami’s email about preparing for Thanksgiving 2016.  “I just need you to make sure that the turkey arrives on Monday, alive and well.  DO NOT let them put it under the bus!”  What Chelsi had realized was that she just needed to make her instructions simple and clear. She was taking it upon herself to organize the meat course for this year, and rightly so, she thought, remembering last year’s ‘meat leader’ Paul, who had taken on the position out of some poorly placed sense of manly duty.  

“The entire time we were cutting up the pig last year he kept complaining that he was about to vomit.” Chelsi tried to explain to anyone who would listen.  

“So then what else do you need?” Hannah and Sami had responded after accepting her bid for the position.  

“Charcoal… Just charcoal. I’ll talk to Neal about what else he needs for the pig.” Slightly against her better judgement, Chelsi had delegated the task of cooking the pig to her nearest neighbor Neal.  She had been swayed by his genuine passion for the project and her confidence in her ability manage and rectify his inevitable failure. 

“He wants to put the pig in a pit, doesn’t he?” 

“Yeah…”

“Do you think that’s a good idea? Do you think it’ll work?”

“He’s very confident it’ll work, I think there’s about a fifty-fifty chance.  But this year I can guarantee that the turkey will be good and next year Neal will likely be the one leading the meat, so it’s better that he gets all of his wackiest ideas out of him now.”

When the day before Thanksgiving came, all preparations commenced.  A proverbial grave was dug, a funeral pyre lit inside and when the sun began to sink low on the horizon the pig, wrapped lovingly in banana leaves and chicken wire was buried in the pit. At that time, Chelsi could have sworn that she had seen a matching graving spring up just beside, all of your hopes and dreams, the headstone had read.  But Chelsi had walked away with confidence in her own project; dressing the turkey, Thanksgiving’s real star, she thought to herself. 

With some patience and agility the bird, who had been free to roam the expansive yard of the provincial office it’s last few days of life, was caught.  Though a larger crowd than Chelsi had expected showed up to watch the bird bleed out, it died well with little commotion. “Which is what you want,” she had instructed her friend and assistant Oliver.  “Next we’ll dip it in the water I’ve been heating on the brazier and we’ll feather it.”

The cleaning and cutting went smoothly, and nine plump piece of meat where dropped into brine and stored in the fridge till the next morning.  
“What time to you think we should unbury the pig?” Neal asked Chelsi Thanksgiving morning around the breakfast table.

Chelsi shrugged, “What’s your confidence level like that it’s finished?”

Neal paused for a moment in quiet reflection, “97%. I am 97% sure that in like an hour it will be perfectly done.”

“Alright then, I’ll meat you out there with a shovel.” Chelsi laughed, “get it? I’ll MEAT you out there?”

Chelsi passed the next hour rinsing, drying and rubbing her bird with barbeque spices and setting the fire on the brazier.  And when the time came she meandered out to the front yard.  

Neal and Oliver where on their hands and knees brushing aside the dirt over the pig.  “It doesn’t really feel warm…” Neal said with a strong strain of concern in his voice.  When the pig was finally uncovered and hoisted out the outlook was not promising.

“This, this little spot here is the only part that cooked.” Neal said, deflated but with rising inflections of worrying and haste in his voice.  

“So what do you want to do now?” Chelsi ask, feeling genuinely sorry that the scheme hadn’t been successful.  

“I don’t know… I don’t know, do you think it’s still safe to eat?”

Chelsi looked it over; it smells, but not unlike any piece of meat, the color’s fine, the flesh still has integrity. “I think its fine.  I got the grill going. Why don’t we just put it up there, cover it and see what happens.”

When Chelsi looked up, she could see Neal’s face covered in full blown panic.  A thousand reasons of doubt exploded from his mouth.  

“Since there is not much more we can do,” Chelsi tried to retain all of her cool, calm and collectedness, “let’s put on the grill and see what happens.”

With the effort Chelsi, Neal and Oliver managed to situate the pig on the grill and Chelsi was able to return her focus to the turkey.

For the last time, she removed the piece from the refrigerator, rinsed them then patted them dry.  She placed a grate over her fire and laid out the pieces as far from the fire as she could.  She checked her watch, about 4 hours till dinner, perfect.   

With the remaining time Chelsi bathed and dressed, and periodically turned her pieces on the fire.  She enjoyed the parade of fanciful dishes passing by; green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, freshly baked diner rolls, pies, cakes, cookies. Everything one would expect for a Thanksgiving feast.  

“And how’s the pig coming?” Chelsi asked Neal as the dinner hour approached. 

“I think it’s going to be okay.  It looks good, it smells fine.” And Chelsi couldn’t help but notice that the color in Neal’s face was looking better as well.  “Oliver and I are going to take it off the grill and remove all of the edible pieces.”

“Great, I think the turkey is done too.  I’m going to grab someone to help me pull it apart and plate it.”

After removing it from the brazier and setting it to rest, the meat pulled away perfectly from the bones of the bird. 

“Oh my goodness,” Chelsi’s friend Allison cried, “this has to be one of the best turkey’s I’ve ever tasted.”

“Thank you!” Chelsi said blushing.  
When the dinner table was complete, all the volunteers gathered around and shared what they were thankful for.  For Chelsi, it was finding family so far away from home.  

Categories: Adventure, DIY, Drama, Food & Recipes, Horror, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

074: Gloomy

Laura seated herself on the couch of Chelsi’s small sitting room.  Chelsi meanwhile, moved about in the dimly lit house, replacing the candles in their holders.

“Tomorrow, first thing, I need to call the canter and remind it to pick up at least 15 people from the parking lot of New Shoprite.  The canter is too small to fit all 30 of them, so it’ll have to make two trips.”

“So what is it you need to me to do?” Laura asked.

“From you…” Chelsi paused to collect her thoughts.  Everything that she had been working so hard for was coming to acumination tomorrow.  Tomorrow, when thirty, nearly perfect strangers will be showing up to the spend week, expecting to learn about the environment and have their basic needs met.  Chelsi felt secure in the environmental education part.  Even if everything went awry she felt confident she’d be able to carry on seamlessly with sessions.  It was the caring for everyone’s needs.  She worried how long the tomatoes would keep, whether the campers and adult mentors would readily accept sleeping on reed mats, how they would manage carrying water from the well or after sunset without electric light.  It was unprecedented, the venue Chelsi and her Lunda counterpart Tyler, had selected for this year’s Camp TREE, Teaching Respect for Everyone’s Environment.  ‘The village will be cheaper.  Arrange with the teacher to let the campers sleep in the school block. Reed mats are only 25 kwacha each. Plus, there’s no rules about where you can and can’t dig.  I think there should be lots of digging this year,’ Tyler had reasoned with her.  ‘And we wouldn’t have to limit the number of volunteers who can attend,” Chelsi added, remembering last year how she was unable to attend because the camp was held in a National Park, where space limited and costs was exponentially higher. ‘And camp in the village can be a whole five days of sessions, since we won’t have to spent half the time transporting people around the province.’  To the two of them at the time, the advantages of their scheme seemed untouchable by the shortcomings. But now every weakness was highlighted in Chelsi’s mind, even with every mitigation she could think of in place.

“From you, I mostly need emotional support,” she confessed.  “I’ll be fighting the desire to run and hide when I see that big blue canter roll up with the first group of kids.”

Laura chuckled, not distastefully though. “I’m just imagining the canter pulling up and you hiding behind a tree!”

“Seriously though! Big groups and loud noises make me anxious.  And what it Camp if not a large group of children, and what are children if not noisy?” having just finished lighting the candles, Chelsi threw her exacerbated self in to her easy chair.  She now wondered if her anxieties would have been lessened if Camp was being held anywhere else but her own house.  Tulip then broke her train of thought, having jumped into her lap with a purr and attempt to suckle her arm.

“You’ll be fine!” Laura reassured her friend. “You’ve been working really hard and everything looks to be in order.  Tomorrow morning we have to what? Bring the reed mats over to the school block, roll them out.  You said the mosquito nets are already organized, they just have to be strung up.  Toiletry kits and notebooks have to be set under the nets.  The welcome banner has to be hung…”

“We need to fill the tipy taps,” Chelsi continued, “and hang the chitenges on the bathas and toilets…”  A wind blew up over the walls, under the roof causing the candles to flicker.  “The pots and tomatoes need to be brought to Gladys, so she can start dinner sooner rather than later.”

“You said Tyler and Rider are coming with the rest of the veg and some buckets of chicken?”

“Yeah,” Chelsi replied with a sigh.

A more substantial wind now blew through the house, nocking some lose grass from the roof.  “Do you think it’s going to rain?” Laura asked.

“I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t mind if it did.  It’s been so hot, and I’d rather it rain now than during Camp, where I don’t have any place to shift activities inside.  It’s drizzled a bit a few times so far, but nothing substantial like in Mwinilunga.” Just then, as if on que, the sharp sound of rain drops hitting the tin roof of her porch reverberated through the house.  “Well, speak of the devil…” Chelsi stood up, Tulip spilling out of her lap, and pushed aside on of the curtains.  “It’s probably just a short, passing thing.” When again, on que the ferocity of the rain doubled.

“Well, I’m glad you were able to get this new roof put up.” Laura commented, looking up.

“Right?” Chelsi started to move about the room, her arms outstretched feeling for any offending leakage.  When she crossed in to the bedroom she paused.  If she was still she could feel a light mist surrounding her body.  She looked around for the possible source. “You want to come in here for a minute?” She called to her friend.

Laura relinquished the rest of the space on the couch to Daisy and entered the bedroom.  “It’s like a mist almost.”

“I know, right? You think it blowing in from over the walls?”

“Ummm,” Laura looked about equally confused.

“Or ricocheting of the tin sheets, and then over the wall?  It kind of feels like it’s coming from that side.”

Laura twisted up her face, “I think it’s just coming down from the roof.”

“Pshh, the roof is brand new,” she moved back in to the sitting room in protest, only to have a large drop of rain splash over her head.  Outside the strength of the rain redoubled, inside a little private rainstorm was taking place.  Chelsi’s inside wrenched.  A quiet scream of anger and frustration escaped her.  “Fucking Kaonde roofs.  What short straw I pulled, not being a Lunda.”  Her soured temperament fell back on cursing the age of stereotypes of her tribe.  Meanwhile, rain was puddling around her.  The smell of sad, wet dog filled the air, and Daisy’s ears drooped with a whimper.

After a few moments, when Chelsi had collected herself, she set to work protecting all matter of things that she could of importance.  “I guess it’s good you have all these big plastic buckets,” Laura commented, helping her.

“Yeah, well.  This is one of the reasons.  And if I didn’t have all this stuff for Camp….”  Fucking camp, and all its blasted stuff, she thought now. “Camp’s cancelled,” she announced to her friend.

Laura, having finished packing up all the things they could started unpacking her tent.  “What do you mean? Camp’s cancelled?”

“If there was ever a reason to cancel camp, this would be it.” After all, to Chelsi, completing Camp had seemed like an unsurmountable challenge, and now it would be.

Laura was exercising the fullest extent of her empathy, but wouldn’t indulge Chelsi’s dramatic flair.  “You know, sure, the whole life you have been building for yourself in Zambia, is being ruined, but it could be worse.” Chelsi lightly glared at her friend, her now idle hands reaching for the bottle of Royal Kingston on her kitchen bench. “At least you are home, so you can protect what things you can.”

“And good thing you’re here with me,” she interjected, “so first thing tomorrow you can help me put up the plastic lining of my roof.” Taking a strong pull from the bottle, she ended sourly, “Not how I wanted to spend the morning before camp…”

“You can sleep in the tent with me if you’d like,” Laura kindly offered.  And with that Chelsi started to pack up her bad mood.

“Thank you.  The rain outside does sound to be letting up too.” Though inside it still seemed to be pouring around them.  “The old roof still would have been much worse.” She almost chuckled, imaging how absolutely horrid it would have been to be under the old roof.  “That one would have likely collapsed on us.” She made her again idle hand busy again help Laura with her tent poles.  “Then Camp really would have been cancelled.”

“Or you could be in Neal situation, with no roof at all.

“Really?! How’d he manage that?”

“After months of trying to get his village to come and replace it, he felt it last resort was to just remove it himself and move out till they fix it.”

Chelsi laughed, “I might have been the one to give him that advice.”

“I think a lot of people did.”

“Ironically too, because exactly one year ago is the day I move out of my house to have it refitted.”

“See! And look how far you’ve come!”

The two friend smiled amidst the rain, and crawled into the tent.

Categories: DIY, Nature, Thriller | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

070: Surprise Celebration

That’s strange, Chelsi thought to herself walking on to the compound of the prov house.  A pile of bags and furniture was stacked up by the door.  Perhaps one of the new kids didn’t make it to their site, it was a reasonable enough assumption.  Chelsi kicked off her shoes and went inside.  The tile was cool under her feet.  She threw bag down beside the long common table and continued out on to the back porch.

“Hey Chelsi,” Chelsi looked about startled by the voice.

“Oh hey Tom, how are you? When did you get here?” Thomas was a fellow volunteer of her intake, but Chelsi rarely saw him, seeing as he lived in the farthest reaches of the province and didn’t often make his way toward town.

“I’m fine, fine. We got here a few days ago. Because did you hear about what happened at Janelle’s site?”

Chelsi shrugged.  She was usually last to get news.  “The Mwini crew doesn’t usually keep us Kaondes informed.”

“Well, one the kids that Janelle worked with went crazy.”

“Yeah, he went crazy,” came Janelle’s mousy voice from the kitchen off the porch.  “Thomas? Do you want mustard on your sandwich?”

“What?” Tom cocked his head toward the kitchen, “oh yeah, yeah, that’s fine.  Yeah, apparently he got in this motorbike accident and hit his head pretty hard, probably gave himself a concussion.  And after that was acting kind of strange, and Janelle was telling him, you know ‘just follow advice of the clinic worker,’ and he was telling her that the other people in the village were telling him that he needed to go see the witch doctor.  And she was telling him not to go, but of course he went anyway.”

“Naturally,” Chelsi nodded a long with the story.

“Right?” Tom shook his head in agreement of the feeling.  “And when he came back he went to Janelle’s house and started telling her that she was a savior, a reincarnation of Christ, and that she needed to sacrifice herself to save him…”

“Oh dear,” Chelsi let herself fall in to the adjacent couch, just as Janelle was emerging from the kitchen, balancing two plates in her hand.

“Yeah, he was coming to my house, saying things like ‘Oh I am suffering, but you, you were sent here to save me.  You need to sacrifice yourself to save me.’”

“Yeah, and he was making threats against her life, like if she didn’t kill herself, he would have to kill her…”

“So I called Safety & Security, and they were like, ‘a yeah, you can’t stay there.’ So I pulled from my site.”

“Oh, so that’s all your stuff on the porch?” it was all coming together for Chelsi.”

“Yeah, and yeah, so now I’m here…” Janelle let out a nervous chuckle and took a bit of her sandwich.

“It’s really sad too,” Tom continued. “This kid was like, super smart.  He was one of the boy Janelle brought to Camp ELITE.  He was doing really well in school, spoke great English…” Tom took a bit of his sandwich.

“Well, what do you think happened? Do you think it was just a traumatic brain injury?”

“Yeah that could be part of it.” Tom said, chewing. “We think though too, it might have been something the witch doctor gave him.  You know some kind of drug that messed with his brain.”

“Sure, especially if it was already in a fragile state from the accident.” Chelsi leaned her head back and closed her eyes, typical. “So what now? What are the options?”

“I’m trying to move in with Thomas!” Janelle piped up with a smile.

It makes sense.  They’ve been together for more than a year and a half now, they’re in the same language group.  “What does Admin think about that?”

“Cleopher doesn’t mind, but it’s really just up to the Country Director,” Tom clarified.

“So Leon?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you been able to talk to him at all? What does he say?”

“That if we want to live together, we have to get married.” This was said very matter-a-fact-ly.

“Because the alternative is that they give Janelle interrupted service and send her home, it’s too late in the game to be moving her to a new site,” Chelsi added mimicking the somber tone.  They couple in question shook their heads, mouths full of sandwich.  “So, does this mean we’re planning wedding?”

“We’re going to go the city council office this afternoon and find out.”

 

Though the circumstances were unfortunate, Chelsi was rather excited by the idea of a wedding.  It’s a good reason to make a cake, and splurge for a bottle a sparkling wine… She was so excited by the thought it was difficult for her to concentrate on her work that afternoon.  So went Thomas and Janelle returned from town she was jumped on them for the verdict.

“Well, well, well,” Chelsi pushed them excitedly.

“Well,” Tom started, sounding optimistic, “one of the things we were concerned about was the cost.  We were able to get a hold of Hannah and Rob,” the only two other volunteers to get married during their service, so as to be able to co-habitat they knew of, “and they said they ended up having to spend like 800 dollars, not kwacha, dollars and their marriage. And if it was going to be that much, we just weren’t going to be able to afford it.  But apparently getting married in Solwezi is super cheap; a speedy wedding’s only 150 kwacha.”

“A ‘speedy’ wedding,” Chelsi asked.  “As opposed to a ‘not speedy’ wedding?”

“A speedy wedding,” Janelle chirped.  “it 50 kwacha more, otherwise it takes three weeks to have your wedding!”

“Are you sure it’s not just, you know, a bribe?” Even after Tom and Janelle explained the difference between a ‘speedy wedding’ and a conventional wedding, calling it a bribe, to Chelsi, still sounded more reasonable.

“If you don’t pay the extra 50 kwacha,” Tom explained, “ then the city council would take Janelle’s picture and biographical information and post it to this bulletin board of engagements at the office, where other men would have three weeks to bid on her and try to break up our engagement.”

Yeah, that’s a bribe.

“Meanwhile, I” Thomas continued, “have to get a letter signed by my father saying that I’ve never been married before.”

“Well, there’s no more honest work than spending an afternoon forging official documents,” Chelsi jested.

“But really…” and the group laughed at just the one more absurdity of living in Zambia.

“So when’s the ceremony scheduled to take place?” Chelsi needed to know how long she had to plan the reception.

“Tomorrow.  It’s too late to go back there this afternoon, but the guy at the city council office today said the guy who does the ceremonies will be in tomorrow. And I guess we need to call are families if we can,” Tom added turning to his fiancé.

“Yeah, you need to call my father and ask his permission!”

“So what kind of cake do you want?”

 

That evening passed quickly in a bustle of commotion.  Tom and Janelle spent the evening getting hold of every relative they could.  Chelsi, Rider and Molly, the only other occupants of the house that week, were set putting all the requisite wedding materials together.  Chelsi crafted the top tier of the cake, a spongy strawberry, Rider the bottom, a dense pound cake, and Molly artfully crafted rings from copper wire.

The next morning, there a small to do about what they groom should wear.  ‘Is it better to wear kind of dirty kakis or clean jeans?’ After the jeans were decided upon, a cab was called and the wedding precession began.

“Probably not exactly how you envisioned your wedding day, huh?” Molly commented while the five of them, struggled to shift around in the sedan, without ripping their finest cloths.

“I think Janelle and I will have another ceremony for our families when we get back to the States.”

“Will you still be considered married in the State?” Rider asked.  This really was the question no one seemed to know the answer to.

“We know that Norway doesn’t recognize Hannah and Rob’s marriage,” Tom said, “but we don’t know anyone who go Zam-married then moved back to America.  So we really have no idea.”

They small reception continued to discuss this point at the city council office until the master of ceremonies arrive.  It turned in to a long conversation too, because he never arrived.  After hours of waiting the party stormed the office and demand that someone be found to marry their friends.  Within five minutes a man was found, handed a binder and the proceedings began.

On their marriage certificate, Thomas and Janelle’s occupation was listed as volunteers.  The city council office readily accepted Thomas’s letter of consent to marriage from his not father, and Chelsi and Rider, the maid of honor and best man, respectively, signed as witnesses to the ceremony.  The man from the city council office fessed up right away that he had never done a wedding before, and though he had a script to guide him, still more than once look around at the witnesses asking what came next.  Copper rings were exchange, with a comment on how it was the love in their hearts, not the material of the metal in the rings that mattered.  And Thomas Strong and Janelle Horstman vowed to have and to hold each other; at least till they returned to America.

“You know, for a proper wedding, with our families in a church.”

Categories: Current Events, DIY, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

068: the Sky Above

Chelsi sat on the easy chair inside her house and looked up at the sky through the fresh bamboo reeds of her new roof.  Small miracles, she thought. Though this was no small miracle. The roof on her house was worse that she thought.  As her two Zambian friends removed the old grass on the roof the day before it had near collapsed; even though their frames were slight.  The old roof had always sloped awkwardly over her common room, it had simply been made that way. The poles on that side just weren’t long enough she knew.  What the grass had hidden though was how much shorter they actually were and how poorly than had been roped together to make a semblance of a standing structure.

No amount of black plastic would have kept it from raining on me.  Now she would have a properly made roof. With so much grass.  She had the 30 bundles she had purchased a few weeks before, plus what looked like 30 more bundles off the old roof.  Originally Chelsi had been worried that the old grass would become too damaged upon its removal that it couldn’t be reused. ‘The pulling and tugging’ she was told ‘that would be needed, because it’s tied down, might make it unusable.’ Only to find out it wasn’t tied down at all.

The new roof was balanced perfectly, peaking over the center of her house.  ‘With proper pole placement and river grass, it will be a five year roof,’ she had been promised.  Roofing in Zambia was described by the length of time it should last.  A roof with made of marsh grass was a one year roof. A roof of broom grass, thatched in the Luvale style, could keep you sheltered for 25 years.   The roof Chelsi had moved under last December was two month roof.  ‘Good’ Chelsi had replied to the promise, ‘because if you have any hope of getting a volunteer to replace me next year, we have to make the house nice.’ It was just the threat it sounded.  If the house wasn’t improved, she wouldn’t recommend a replacement.  She couldn’t, in good conscious, lead another volunteer in to the circumstances that she had been placed. But, now that the work was being done, she only hoped that whomever it was that came to replace her would appreciate her efforts.  It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be an immense upgrade to the dilapidated shack I had been presented with, more than a year ago now. 

Sitting in the easy chair Chelsi felt luminous; with the sunlight reflected off the white, limed plastered walls of her house and the sky a glittering blue.  This week was the most continuous time she had spent under the Zambian sun.  Her skin was showing it too; red, despite the sunscreen.  But Chelsi was smiling, imagining the thatch on her new roof.

A few of her doves flew up and perched on the reeds of the roof.  The black and white mottled birds preened themselves contently.  Above them small jobies sang in the tall tree that shaded the house.

Categories: Current Events, DIY, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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